hysteria


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Hysteria

 

Definition

The term "hysteria" has been in use for over 2,000 years and its definition has become broader and more diffuse over time. In modern psychology and psychiatry, hysteria is a feature of hysterical disorders in which a patient experiences physical symptoms that have a psychological, rather than an organic, cause; and histrionic personality disorder characterized by excessive emotions, dramatics, and attention-seeking behavior.

Description

Hysterical disorders

Patients with hysterical disorders, such as conversion and somatization disorder experience physical symptoms that have no organic cause. Conversion disorder affects motor and sensory functions, while somatization affects the gastrointestinal, nervous, cardiopulmonary, or reproductive systems. These patients are not "faking" their ailments, as the symptoms are very real to them. Disorders with hysteric features typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood.

Histrionic personality disorder

Histrionic personality disorder has a prevalence of approximately 2-3% of the general population. It begins in early adulthood and has been diagnosed more frequently in women than in men. Histrionic personalities are typically self-centered and attention seeking. They operate on emotion, rather than fact or logic, and their conversation is full of generalizations and dramatic appeals. While the patient's enthusiasm, flirtatious behavior, and trusting nature may make them appear charming, their need for immediate gratification, mercurial displays of emotion, and constant demand for attention often alienates them from others.

Causes and symptoms

Hysterical disorders

Hysteria may be a defense mechanism to avoid painful emotions by unconsciously transferring this distress to the body. There may be a symbolic function for this, for example a rape victim may develop paralyzed legs. Symptoms may mimic a number of physical and neurological disorders which must be ruled out before a diagnosis of hysteria is made.

Histrionic personality disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), individuals with histrionic personality possess at least five of the following symptoms or personality features:
  • a need to be the center of attention
  • inappropriate, sexually seductive, or provocative behavior while interacting with others
  • rapidly changing emotions and superficial expression of emotions
  • vague and impressionistic speech (gives opinions without any supporting details)
  • easily influenced by others
  • believes relationships are more intimate than they are.

Diagnosis

Hysterical disorders frequently prove to be actual medical or neurological disorders, which makes it important to rule these disorders out before diagnosing a patient with hysterical disorders. In addition to a patient interview, several clinical inventories may be used to assess the patient for hysterical tendencies, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) or the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III). These tests may be administered in an outpatient or hospital setting by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Treatment

Hysterical disorders

For people with hysterical disorders, a supportive healthcare environment is critical. Regular appointments with a physician who acknowledges the patient's physical discomfort are important. Psychotherapy may be attempted to help the patient gain insight into the cause of their distress. Use of behavioral therapy can help to avoid reinforcing symptoms.

Histrionic personality disorder

Psychotherapy is generally the treatment of choice for histrionic personality disorder. It focuses on supporting the patient and on helping develop the skills needed to create meaningful relationships with others.

Prognosis

Hysterical disorders

The outcome for hysterical disorders varies by type. Somatization is typically a lifelong disorder, while conversion disorder may last for months or years. Symptoms of hysterical disorders may suddenly disappear, only to reappear in another form later.

Histrionic personality disorder

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder may be at a higher risk for suicidal gestures, attempts, or threats in an effort to gain attention. Providing a supportive environment for patients with both hysterical disorders and histrionic personality disorder is key to helping these patients.

Resources

Organizations

American Psychiatric Association. 1400 K Street NW, Washington DC 20005. (888) 357-7924. 〈http:// www.psych.org〉.
American Psychological Association (APA). 750 First St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. (202) 336-5700. 〈ttp://www.apa.org〉.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Colonial Place Three, 2107 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 300, Arlington, VA 22201-3042. (800) 950-6264. http://www.nami.org.

hysteria

 [his-ter´e-ah]
a now somewhat nebulous term formerly used widely in psychiatry. Its meanings included classic hysteria (now called somatization disorder); hysterical neurosis (now divided into conversion disorder and dissociative disorders); and hysterical personality (now called histrionic personality). adj. adj hyster´ic, hyster´ical.

hys·te·ri·a

(his-tē'rē-ă), Negative or pejorative connotations of this word may render it offensive in some contexts.
A term derived from the ancient Greek concept of a wandering uterus, denoting maladies involving physical symptoms that seem better explained by psychological factors. The concept of hysteria is historicaly differentiated into somatization disorder and conversion disorder, both of which are considered types of somatoform disorders in the DSM. The current ICD-10, however, places conversion disorder with dissociative disorders, not with somatoform disorders. See: conversion, psychogenic, psychosomatic.
[G. hystera, womb, from the original notion of womb-related disturbances in women]

hysteria

(hĭ-stĕr′ē-ə, -stîr′-)
n.
1. Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic.
2. A group of psychiatric symptoms, including heightened emotionality, attention-seeking behavior, and preoccupation with physical symptoms that may not be explainable by a medical condition. The term hysteria is no longer in clinical use, and such symptoms are currently attributed to any of several psychiatric conditions, including somatic symptom disorder, conversion disorder, and histrionic personality disorder.

hysteria

Psychiatry A 16th century term for excessive emotional lability, anxiety etc. See Mass hysteria, Vapors.

hys·te·ri·a

(his-ter'ē-ă)
A somatoform disorder in which there is an alteration or loss of physical functioning that suggests a physical disorder such as paralysis of an arm or disturbance of vision, but that is instead apparently an expression of a psychological conflict or need.
[G. hystera, womb, from the original notion of womb-related disturbances in women]

hysteria

A disturbance of body function not caused by organic disease but resulting from psychological upset or need. The affected person is apparently unaware of the psychological origin of the disorder. The term ‘hysteria’ has become politically incorrect and is now usually referred to as a CONVERSION DISORDER.

psy·cho·so·mat·ic

(sī'kō-sŏ-mat'ik)
Refers to influence of mind or psychological functioning of brain on physiologic functions of body relative to bodily disorders or disease and reciprocal impact of disease on psychological functioning.
[psycho- + G. sōma, body]
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